October 25, 2010
Not-So-Family Film Blogging: The Social Network
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, I'm a little behind here.  Gordon has already posted on The Social Network, but I just got around to seeing it this weekend.  Truthfully, I was putting it off because I felt weird going to see a movie that played fast and loose with facts, as everyone admits.  If it was accurate, I would like to use it in BA to explain formation issues.  But no one argues that it is accurate.  But, because I'm a lover of Aaron Sorkin, business movies and cute nerdy guys, I finally broke down.

Gordon's right; it's a great movie.  Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic as Mark Zuckerberg, the kid genius who takes a whiff of an idea from Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss and turns it into history.  And the dialogue is pure Sorkin -- Zuckerberg says the kinds of things that all of us think of saying two days later.  One fine example.  When asked by the opposing counsel in a deposition if the counsel has his full attention, the character Mark replies:

I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try - but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. [pauses] Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

Oh, and now I remembered another one. When it is suggested (again) that Zuckerberg diluted his friend Eduardo Saverin because Saverin was invited to join a finals club, but he was not, he replies:

Ma'am, I know you've done your homework and so you know that money isn't a big part of my life, but at the moment I could buy Mt. Auburn Street, take the Phoenix Club and turn it into my ping pong room.

And there's the underlying point of the movie.  Zuckerberg didn't do it for money.  As Gordon pointed out, the movie uses a mythical girlfriend, Erica, as the symbol for this.  Of course, as the real Zuckerberg tells us, there was no Erica, he has always had the same girlfriend, and he did not create Facebook to get girls.  But the girl is more than the girl.  She is love, acceptance, popularity, admiration, and everything good about life rolled into one.  If we accept the assertion that Zuckerberg didn't create Facebook for the money, then there has to be a motivation.  He is in the movie and in real life extremely hard-working, focused and slightly obsessive.  Though it may just have been a motivation to create something "cool," (cool gratia coolis?) that is surely just a means to an end, whether financial or not.

But of course Facebook is the coolest thing ever, as much as people like to criticize it, leave it, rejoin it, etc.  And the movie captures that.

So, does the movie make Zuckerberg look bad?  I don't think so.  Walking out, the 20-somethings thought he was a jerk.  But I just didn't see it.  (Maybe being in law, I have a high threshold for jerkiness.)  The movie opens when he is basically a child, a freshman in college.  He is insecure.  Isn't everyone?  He makes fun of his ex-girlfriend online.  (The "I made fun of my ex online" club would be pretty big, I think.)  He doesn't know how to apologize, or really how to interact with others.  He's extremely smart.  Another meme of the movie is how does one make themselves stand out in an environment of geniuses.  He stands out.  He falls under the sway of the charismatic founder of Napster.  He doesn't come across as the dashing leading man.  But he does come out as bankable, and more trustworthy than Saverin and more creative than the Winklevoss twins (the Winklevii).  After seeing The Social Network, would you invest in Facebook?.  Heck, yes.  Especially now that Zuckerberg is in control and that goofball Saverin is out of the picture.  And that may be why the movie got made without interference by Zuckerberg.  Sure, Zuckerberg knows that many of the dates, parties, conversations, etc. didn't take place.  But he does know that the important parts of the movie are true -- at an extremely early age, in about a week or so, with little or no help from anyone else, Zuckerberg created a website that redefined society around the globe.

The two hour movie sets up the first half of any good hero movie -- here is our noble hero, a bright boy with special gifts, who runs into trouble by giving into any number of vices and who has tragic flaws.  However, in the second half of the movie, we will see our hero grow into his special gifts and save the world.  The Social Network stops when our hero is in his early twenties.  I am looking forward to the second half of the story.

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